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Episode 012 - Getting Into Your Prospect's Way of Thinking

Published by: David Garfinkel on 07-10-2017

My all-time biggest hit was a direct mail sales letter for Abacus Travel Management that generated $40 million in new business. I wrote this pretty early in my career as a copywriter… over 20 years ago.

One of the biggest challenges I had was getting into the way of thinking that ran through my prospect’s minds. My prospect was an entrepreneur who had a successful company and bought a lot of travel. I had never met anyone like that before, so it took a lot of research and a lot of mental effort before I could zero-in on who this person was.

What I found out was, because they were so successful, nobody would cut them any slack. Everyone assumed the successful entrepreneur had no problems, since it seemed like they had endless amounts of money and other people did all the work. The reality, of course, was quite different – these people worked harder than anyone else at their company. And what good was money if you didn’t have any time to enjoy it?

So eventually I came up with the perfect headline. The idea was, here you are, you overworked entrepreneur who everyone wants something from. How would you like to get a first-class vacation at rock-bottom prices? The reason we, Abacus Travel Management, are offering this to you, is so we can give you a little sample of what we could do for all your business travel. Not just you, but everyone in your company.

Prospects loved it. Abacus had to stop mailing the letter after a few weeks because they couldn’t keep up with the appointments!

The funny thing was, nobody actually took Abacus up on the vacation offer… but, a lot of people hired Abacus for their companies.

Here’s what’s important about that true story: A big part of the success of that letter was that I was able to get in the prospect’s way of thinking. I made them feel understood and cared about. That in itself was rare enough in their world so that they would ask for a meeting… and my client was able to take it from there and close sales.

And that is how valuable getting into your prospect’s way of thinking can be. In this case, it was worth $40 million.

Now, looking back nearly 25 years, I know that I was not unusual in having a hard time getting into my prospect’s way of thinking. I know this because even the most talented copywriters I coach often have problems with this at first. It’s not something they teach in school, you know. In fact I don’t know anyone who teaches a system for how to do this effectively.

Today I’m going to share some steps with you on how to do this. It will make your work a lot easier and your copy a lot more profitable.

But first, I want to remind you of something:

Copy is powerful. You’re responsible for how you use what you hear on this podcast. Most of the time, common sense is all you need. But if you make extreme claims… and/or if you’re writing copy for offers in highly regulated industries like health, finance, and business opportunity… you may want to get a legal review after you write and before you start using your copy. My larger clients do this all the time.

OK, now, here are some tips on how to get into your prospect’s way of thinking:

• Everyone talks about getting into “the conversation already going on in your prospect’s mind.” That’s right. But how do you do it? It’s not guesswork or magical intuition. After we go through these steps, you’ll have a basis for doing so. But you’ve got to take the steps to have any hope of accuracy.

• Remember how I said I didn’t know any people like my prospects. I do now… maybe in some ways I’m one of those people… but, the important point here is, I didn’t then. So I had to find out about them. That brings us to a really important point for most marketers and copywriters: Realize that you are NOT your prospect. That means it’s incumbent upon you to find out who is.

Now some steps:

• Start by finding out what PROBLEMS and FURSTRATIONS are causing their problems. Remember how I said these recently successful entrepreneurs got no sympathy from anyone, because almost everyone thought they had no problems? That in itself was a problem. And of course it’s bullshit to think anyone in the world doesn’t have problems, everyone does.

Key point here: Knowing the problems they have is good, but it’s only half of this step. Problems lead to frustrations… obstacles. What gets in their way as a result of these problems.

Just knowing a full answer to these questions alone will get you in much better shape for getting into your prospect’s way of thinking.

• Now ask: What are their values?

People have different values. You need to respect their values to sell to them, even if you disagree with them. (My experience with mlm folks and the $1million one day launch.)

• Ask: What are they afraid of?

Even the bravest and also the most stoic people have fears. True, people like that deal with their fears differently. It’s true that there’s a small minority of people have no fears, but they are almost certainly not your prospects! See if you can figure out logically what these people would most likely have fears about, especially in relation to your offer or set of offers.

• A little friendly advice: If you have an idealized view of how humanity should be, then take note of that and set it aside. A lot of people with strong political, religious, and non-religious spiritual beliefs have this kind of view. You don’t have to abandon what you believe, but it’s really important to sell to people where they are, emotionally and experientially. Be a curious researcher, not a proud idealist, when you’re doing this part of your work as a copywriter.

• Now we can get to it: “The conversation already going on in your prospect’s mind.” Once you have a sense of how they live their lives, what their values are, what they’re afraid of, what they really want – and, especially, what their problems are and what frustrations that leads to – then you have the building blocks for that conversation.

Three Research Tips To Find All Of This Out

• TALK TO PEOPLE IN THE MARKET - don’t argue. Be curious. Seek out their opinions and respectfully appreciate what they say. Even if you can’t stand what they’re saying. Because they’re handing you GOLD.

• READ UP - Look at reviews on Amazon. Look especially for strongly held opinions and complaints. If you see versions of the same thing more than a few times, that’s a good sign it’s a widespread feeling in your marketing place.

• Look at successful copy from others in your marketplace. Don’t steal it. Instead, see how you can figure out what values, fears and desires this copy is appealing to. You’ll want to appeal to the same thing.

Keywords: enter the conversation already going on in your prospect's mind

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